Engraving Methods: The Old and the New

Developed in the fifteenth century, engraving was considered a goldsmith’s art. The first form of engraving was line engraving, which was practiced throughout Italy. This process consisted of carvings made into a hard substance and then printed onto paper. The engraving plates were etched with bold designs and intricate details that were filled with ink.

Given the printing process involved, the images would appear reversed so the plates had to be etched backwards. Artists who created pieces with this line engraving method generally used copper plates due to its softness, which kept the engraved edges from appearing too harsh.

An engraved antique brass tray.

An engraved antique brass tray.

Steel line engraving, though, was also practiced beginning in the 1820’s. Although copper was heralded for its softer feel, steel was discovered to be a more durable option thanks to its firmness. Allowing finer detail and resistance to wear, steel engraving also required new, stronger engraving tools.

Engraved steel plates allowed for numerous prints without any signs of deterioration, reducing costs and giving new life to the printing industry. Both steel and copper engravings as art forms died down after the 1840s despite the incredible detail and skill they demonstrated.

Modern Engraving Practices

Engraving methods have grown greatly since this time, with mechanical engraving and laser engraving processes as popular alternatives. Rather than producing fine art, though, these high-speed options are used to create engraved nameplates, engraved tags, and engraved custom labels.

Here at Yeuell Nameplate & Label we have to ability to take electronic design files, such as logos or images, and mechanically engrave them directly onto the desired nameplate. We engrave materials such as brass and aluminum with a high-speed rotary cutting tool.

On the other hand, laser engraving can chisel details to the minuscule .005”. At Yeuell we use a CNC driver with a laser beam to achieve these narrow lines. Representing the latest in engraving technology, laser engraving is commonly used for plastic and stainless steel thanks to its quick, detailed capabilities. It does not require any ink for its markings and it also does not require tools that come into contact with the metal, which can easily wear out in mechanical engraving.

Although engraving has come a long way, its roots are in meticulous, handmade craftsmanship. Take a look at these collections of antique nameplates that were crafted with care on the Yeuell blog.